Bradley v. Am. Smelting and Refining Co.

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Bradley v. Am. Smelting and Refining Co.
Court Supreme Court of Washington
Citation 104 Wash. 2d 677
709 P.2d 782
Date decided 1985

Facts

Plaintiffs claimed that microscopic, airborne particles of heavy metals had come from the defendant‘s copper smelter, and landed on their property some 4 miles away. As a part of the industrial process various gasses and particulate matter are emitted, however these cannot be detected by the human senses.

Procedural History

Plaintiffs had sued for damages in trespass and nuisance. The parties had filed cross motions for summary judgment with the trial court judge.

Issues

  • Whether a trespass can exist as a direct invasion when the physical invading thing is unseen to the human eye.
  • Whether actual and substantial damage to the property itself must be proven in order to establish a trespass claim.

Holding

  • Yes
  • Yes
The trial court judge granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the trespass count, finding a verdict for the defendant

Reasons

A trespass can exist as a direct invasion when the force is just as real if it is chemical in nature and must be awakened by the intervention of another agency before it does harm.

One who cannot show that actual and substantial damages have been suffered should be subject to dismissal of his cause.